Following the crowd has never been a way to emerge as a leader. However, learning from companies that have gone from small startup to enterprise success is just plain smart.
Enterprise applications are in the middle of an enormous growth spurt. International Data Corporation predicts that these businesses will generate $50.8 billion in revenue by 2018, amounting to a compound annual growth rate of 17.6 percent.
Companies such as HubSpot and Slack are grabbing headlines for their innovative offerings and impressive growth trajectories. What are they doing that’s so special? Here are five marketing lessons you can take away from these masters:
1. Be a first mover, like Yammer.
Given the protracted sales cycle inherent in enterprise businesses, startups may need a long time to gain traction. Accordingly, it really pays to be early to market.
Before Slack or HipChat existed, Yammer was the premier enterprise social network. It gave people the ability to learn from co-workers and find the answers they needed without leaving their desks. By being the first offering of its kind, Yammer captured more than 80 percent of the Fortune 500 market and was acquired by Microsoft for $1.2 billion.
2. Identify new opportunities, like New Relic.
Instead of just following a trend, New Relic is a company that decided to skate where the puck was going rather than to enter a saturated market. The company took a future-minded approach and built a product for an opportunity that hadn’t yet presented itself.
This endeavor required a lot of patience and persistence, as New Relic experienced slow growth in its first three years. But instead of pivoting, the team waited for the market to catch up. In the subsequent two years, New Relic grew to 35,000 accounts and secured $80 million in funding.
3. Engineer growth with customer evangelism, like Slack.
Word of mouth is still the most credible form of marketing, and the best way to generate positive buzz is to build a customer-friendly business. Since launching in February 2014, Slack has surpassed 500,000 daily users and morphed into a billion-dollar company without spending a dime on marketing.
Slack attributes its growth exclusively to customer evangelism; people love using the product so much that they tell their friends about it. Though workplace chat services are inherently viral, Slack has maximized its customer love by allowing integration with dozens of applications and creating a clean, beautiful interface.
4. Build an inbound sales engine with helpful content, like HubSpot.
HubSpot built its business by literally using its own services. Instead of relying on traditional outbound marketing, the company gains consumer trust by providing valuable blog content, webinars and other industry resources. By bringing engaged customers to its turf, HubSpot generates high-quality leads at a lower cost every time someone reads one of its posts or uses one of its tools.
5. Align your sales and marketing, like HubSpot.
Synergy and a clear division of labor between sales and marketing are absolutely crucial for enterprise startups. HubSpot calls this “smarketing.”
You too can implement this alignment by integrating your teams’ tools to help each party better understand which leads convert best. You can also have marketers sit in on sales calls and encourage your sales team to give marketers feedback on lead quality. HubSpot takes this idea of alignment to the extreme by giving its marketing team a lead quota its members must meet each week.
To boost your own startup’s credibility, good strategies include hosting webinars, gathering user testimonials and working to turn your biggest customers into brand advocates. While the old adage “No one ever got fired for buying IBM” may seem outdated, it still applies to enterprise startups. Most potential customers want proof that your company is reliable and that other respectable businesses use your products.
What all five of these companies have in common in terms of great marketing strategy is simply a great offering. Being first to market and providing an inherently viral service is helpful, of course. But at the end of the day, if you deliver a product or service that people love to use, they’ll reward you with loyalty and unstoppable word of mouth.